Tag Archives: Sterling

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need / The Case of the Stinky Stench

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Prepare for a musical magical mystery tour.
The dapper dog with the super tall top hat returns to carry out further public-spirited acts. Now it’s the members of a band – the very one Mr T. has come to the zoo to hear perform – that have, so their leader Wollo walrus informs him, dispersed around the gardens.
The two begin their search with Pinky Jackson, the guitar playing flamingo; not an easy task on account to the large number of the species; but that of course is where readers come in. Once he’s been located, Pinky …

is more than willing to join the hunt and has an idea where trumpet player, toucan Jimmy Toots might be.

He in turn suggests a possible location for sax. player Mary Lou Lemur; so off they go to the Lost Forest. And so it goes on until Otis O’Rangutan trombonist, iguana, Cool Jules drummer and only reptile (he’s pretty tricky to spot), banjo strummer Jellyfish Jack and four other musicians have been found – just in time for the show. The location of the final missing performer happens conveniently, to be in the busy gift shop, which is also the space wherein the stage is set for the concert.
There the entire ensemble comes together to entertain the crowd and thereafter to bid Mr Tweed a rousing farewell.
There’s an interesting mix of human and animal visitors to the zoo, some scenes of which are presented in a kaleidoscope of psychedelic colours absolutely bursting with activity, while others, such as the arctic pool, are rather more restful on the eye, although equally intricate. Every one though, is absolutely brimming over with talk potential and storytelling material.

The Case of the Stinky Stench
Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Hold your noses; something malodorous is emanating from a certain fridge, but worry not; Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have been called back while holidaying on Marshmallow Coast at the request of Inspector Croissant, Sir French Toast’s nephew. They’re on the case right away searching for what it is that’s causing shelves of food to turn bad and pong alarmingly.
Following clues, the three of them set about searching the fridge’s inner landscape: across Salsa Ravine, around smoggy Mount Everbean and through Applesauce River, but still all they discover are false alarms and red herrings. Will they ever get to the bottom of the mysterious stench: perhaps Casserole Cliff might yield the answer …

and if so, how will Inspector Croissant deal with the culprit?

Replete with a culinary vocabulary and served up in a saucy rhyming text and deliciously funny foody scenes, this tale of stinky sleuthing is satisfyingly silly, not least in its final resolution. There’s even a foldout map of the whole search at the end to feast your eyes on.

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How To Look After Your Dinosaur / Caring For Your Lion

How To Look After Your Dinosaur
Jason Cockroft
Nosy Crow
The outsized creature herein simply bursts into the life of a small boy when the postman makes a special delivery one day.
Just in case the same thing happens to you, it’s advisable to be in the know. Best then to take it from one who’s learnt from experience: get it right and you’ve got a friend for life.
The day needs to get off to a good start so a nutritional breakfast will give your new pet the energy required for the day: through trial and error you’ll find out what appeals.
Next on the agenda should be a spot of outdoor exercise. The park is a suitable place to head for and inevitably, the animal will need to take a dump at some time so it’s best to take a large container.

Dressing for the occasion, the rules of friendship, regular meals and knowing when to head for home are other important considerations.
Once back indoors, establishing a proper bedtime routine from the outset will make life a lot easier and after a good scrub you can settle down with your pet for a soothing bedtime story …

Essentially this is a giant leg-pull of a book that works on the witty interplay between words and pictures.

More on unusual pet care in:

Caring For Your Lion
Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings
Sterling
It’s the big day; the day a boy’s kitten will finally arrive. Apparently however, the company ran out of kittens and so have sent a lion instead. ‘Luckily, a lion is practically the same thing!’ says the label on the crate and ‘caring for your lion is easy.’ All one has to do is to follow the step-by-step instructions set out in the handy guide provided. Step 1 is to open the crate to reveal the new pet and Step 2, to locate the enclosed feather (to be kept for emergencies) – such as the one referred to in Steps 4 and 5.

Back to Step 3 though lest we get ahead of ourselves; this urges the owner to avoid looking like a zebra, a gazelle or a bunny for obvious reasons. This is where the feather might come in handy; ditto if the ravenous creature accidentally consumes the deliveryman, along with the assorted pizzas you’ve ordered.
Potty Training (with the help of the enclosed deluxe lion potty pack), setting up an appropriate play space, sleeping arrangements, rewards for good behaviour, the bath time ritual …

and the bedtime routine are all covered. And naturally after all this the final ‘purrrrr-fect pet’ step will speak for itself.
Completely antithetical to Tammi Sauer’s deadpan ‘how to’ style’ text are Troy Cummings’ laugh out loud artistic interpretations of the instructions: an altogether uproarious combination.

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Very Little Rapunzel / Big Little Hippo

Very Little Rapunzel
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Picture Corgi
Meet Very Little Rapunzel, star of the fourth of the Very Little fairy tale series. She is, so her mum insists in need of a haircut but refuses to visit the hairdresser’s. New hairstyles are tried but none can curb the abundance of her unruly tresses and in a paddy, the little miss hurls her Big Box of Hair Things out of the tower right down to where a Very Little Prince happens to be standing.
Rapunzel lowers her hair at his request and up climbs the prince to play with her. Before you can say itch, both Prince and Rapunzel are scratching furiously and are discovered to have nits.
Treatment ensues with lots and lots … of combing …

complaining, washing and sploshing …

until a certain Very Little miss wilful has a change of heart. She grabs the scissors and …

which leaves her playmate rather stranded, but not for too long. Thanks to some imaginative hair styling, an escape route and more is fashioned by the teasy weezy trio culminating in fun and games for all.
With that disarming smile and spirit of independence, Very Little Rapunzel is set to charm her way into the affections of a whole host of very little listeners.

Big Little Hippo
Valeri Gorbachev
Sterling
The smallest of his family and much smaller than big old Crocodile, very tall Giraffe and giant Elephant,

Little Hippo is far from happy with his lack of stature. His mother’s assurances that he’ll eventually be big like his parents offer no comfort as he wanders among huge trees and tall grasses feeling like the smallest creature in the entire world. Until that is he comes upon a tiny beetle struggling to turn itself the right way up. Little Hippo rescues the creature …

and the words of thanks from its family, “Thank you, Big Hippo!” truly make his day and more importantly change the way he sees himself. “I’m big now!” he announces as he rushes, full of new-found confidence, to tell his mother, passing on the way, all those animals whose largeness had previously made him feel so insignificant.
Proud of his deed of kindness, she renames him “Big Little Hippo”, which is just perfect.
Perspective and scale are effectively and playfully used in Gorbachev’s ink and watercolour scenes of Little Hippo and the other jungle animals in this sweet tale of finding where you fit in the world.

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Daisy Doodles / Ella Who?

Daisy Doodles
Michelle Robinson, Irene Dickson & Tom Weller
Oxford University Press
Get ready to go doodle crazy with Daisy.
One rainy day the little girl is stuck indoors and almost before she can say ‘Pipsqueak’ her drawing has upped off the page and is helping the child adorn the entire house with doodles of all shapes and sizes.
The rain stops but that is not the end of the adventure; in fact it’s the beginning of a whole exciting experience,

as dragons and dragonflies, castles and carousels, mermaids and much more are conjured into being, which culminates in the claw-wielding, jaw-snapping Battle of Crayon Creek.
All good things have to end though and end they do when the tickly octopus chases everyone back home and mum appears on the scene …

although that is not quite the end of the story …
In this lovely celebration of children’s creativity and imagination, the book’s creators cleverly use the device of a mirror to transport the little girl and her companion into their fantasy world of make-believe and back again: a world created by a variety of doodle-appropriate media.
With all the exciting visuals, it would be easy to overlook Michelle’s manner of telling, which, with its sprinklings of alliteration, and interjections of dialogue, is also a delight and allows plenty of space for Irene Dickson’s illustrations to create their magic.

Ella Who?
Linda Ashman and Sara Sanchez
Sterling
There’s a touch or two of the Not Now Bernard’s about this story of a family moving day. The parents of the young narrator are far too busy to take notice of their daughter’s talk of the presence of an elephant in the living room of the home they’re moving in to.
While mum, dad …

and grandma are engaged in getting their new abode into some kind of order, the little girl, having ensured that her baby brother is soundly asleep, engages in some elephant-shared activities, first in her new bedroom and then, outside in the garden. And that is where our narrator notices a man coming to the front door: a man inquiring about a missing baby elephant going by the name of Fiona and having – so it says in the flier he leaves – a particular penchant for apples, . Surely it couldn’t be … could it?

Much of the humour of this book is in the interplay of words and pictures: It’s the little elephant that hands dad a tool as he struggles to fix the shower – a fact he’s completely oblivious to as he utters the story’s “Ella WHO?” catch phrase. As are the other family members, throughout the book: even on the penultimate spread, having told her mum she’s just been bidding the elephant farewell, she gets this same “Ella WHO?” response from her dad.
An extended joke that works well enough to engage young children who will be amused at the adults who don’t listen and delight in joining in with the repeat question.

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Tiny Dinosaurs / Dance Is for Everyone

Tiny Dinosaurs
Joel Stewart
Oxford University Press
Daisy is dinosaur mad: so says Rex, the canine narrator of this enchanting picture book. Such is her passion that Rex has to endure all kinds of adornments …

and engage in all manner of dinosaur-like behaviour.

Daisy’s mind is filled with dinosaurs: wherever she and Rex go they keep their eyes peeled for the creatures until one day, right in their very own garden they discover … dinosaurs.
These dinosaurs, Rex informs us, are not large but perfect Daisy-sized creatures. The trouble is, they seem to be all that Daisy is interested in and so …

Everywhere he goes, reminds Rex of his pal: but Daisy won’t even notice I’m missing, thinks Rex.
To say what happens thereafter would be to reveal too much; let me just say that the story reminds me of the opening lines of a song, a Dutch teacher friend of mine once taught one of my nursery classes: ‘Make new friends but keep the old/ Some are silver but the others are gold.’

Dance Is for Everyone
Andrea Zuill
Sterling
There’s a new member in Mrs Iraina’s ballet class: a rather large one with a very long tail. Language is an issue, but she’s a hard worker and able to follow the others so she’s allowed to stay. She does have a tail issue too,

though that is less easy to cope with, on account of that language issue; and the class members are wary of upsetting the newcomer.
Teacher and class together come up with a plan: they create and learn a new dance called “The Legend of the Swamp Queen” starring Tanya, as she’s now called: a role that requires a spot of cummerbund wrapping to keep that errant tail in check …

The audience are enchanted; but the following day, the star is nowhere to be seen …
After some time however, the class receive an invitation to a very special performance …
Droll visuals and a deadpan text combine to make a delicious demonstration of the ‘no holds barred’ idiom.

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Rainbow & Opposites / Little Mouse’s Big Secret

Rainbow
Opposites

Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
Pleasing design and adorable illustrations are the hallmark of Jane Cabrera’s books for the very young. Her two latest offerings have both those qualities.
Rainbow has die-cut arched pages that build up to form a rainbow.
It’s a fun board book to enjoy together and each colour spread, with its named items …

could make a great starting point for adult and child to participate in some shared storying.
Opposites uses flaps and while young children acquire concepts such as slow/fast and wet/dry from real life experiences, books such as these can facilitate this development in an interactive, playful way, helping to reinforce the vocabulary.

Here you can play a game with your child or children by asking them to guess what is hidden behind each interesting shaped flap before being allowed to open it. This game also introduces the idea of predicting as an important reading strategy.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret
Éric Battut
Sterling
Little Mouse finds a yummy red apple on the ground and decides to keep it a secret. He buries it. Shhhh! Don’t tell. Friends pass by and each wants to know what Mouse is hiding. “It’s my secret, and I’ll never tell,” is Mouse’s reply to Bird, Turtle, Hedgehog,

Rabbit and Frog.
Nature takes its course and eventually, Mouse’s secret’s out – well and truly. Mouse takes a big decision; he shares and all his friends reap the rewards.

The spare, repetitive text and cute yet subtle illustrations make this best for sharing one-to-one or with a very small group of pre-school children. Equally, it’s ideal for beginning readers who are likely to be sufficiently savvy to realise what mouse doesn’t: that right behind his back, a tree is growing …

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My New Room / Time for a Nap

My New Room
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
Edith, the young girl narrator shares with readers the process of moving into a new room and making it her own. We share too, the comments of other inhabitants of the room starting with Edith’s toy soldier guard, Gary.

As head of moving and room safety, I have been keeping everyone in check to ensure a smooth and safe move, “ he announces.
Next to speak is dog, Albert, who deems the place “usually OK smelly wise”on account of Edith’s almost daily baths. Other toys include the softly spoken, Osbert T. Octopus, Timothy Sloth and Reginald Rabbit, occupants of the spare bed (unless Grandma comes for a sleep-over) and a host of others. Those perching atop the wardrobe have a wonderful view of the garden – perfect for “plane spotting” says Susan hippo, whereas Breton Mouse has found the perfect trampolining spot …

while poor Sebastian Snake has the chilliest spot of all and is thinking of applying “for a promotion.” It looks as though they might all settle happily in their new abode; it looks too as though they’ve been pretty busy creating something special for Edith.

I absolutely loved Lisa Stickley’s Handstand debut; this is even better I think. The text, presented as in a child’s writing book, is deliciously witty and the patterned illustrations adorable. I’d certainly recommend putting this in pride of place on Edith’s bookshelf along side Gary Guardsman, as well as adding it to a family, nursery or early years classroom collection.

Time for a Nap
Phillis Gershator and David Walker
Sterling
Through a gentle rhyming text and delightful, soft-focus pencil and acrylic scenes of a little rabbit and parent, human toddlers can share in their week. Starting with Monday, shopping day,

Gershator and Walker take us through their weekday activities, shopping, playing, a visit to the library for storytime (hooray!), clothes washing and gardening and on Saturday and Sunday, relaxing together.
A crucial part of every one of those days is nap time – not always readily embarked on by little rabbit.

Short and sweet, and ideal for participatory reading with littles: try reading it with a nursery group and then leaving the book with appropriate props or small world toys for children to interact with.

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Sleeping Bunnies / My First Books/ Picky Eaters

Sleeping Bunnies
Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
The latest Sing along with me title is a favourite with almost every nursery child I’ve encountered; they just love to sing and act out this one. This beautifully illustrated version of the song offers the opportunity to have some book-related singing and manipulative play, lifting the sunshade over the bunny crib and making the sun rise at the same time, in time to hear the ‘merry tune’ from the animal trio that pop up from behind the fence to play to the baby bunnies.

These furry infants are reluctant wakers; ‘Are they ill? Oh so still!’ Oh no! Off they go, hop, hop, hopping till it’s time to stop. Yipee! Delight from cover to cover and if this doesn’t get your sleeping bunny hopping, then scan the QR code on the cover and play it nice and loud …
Books such as these can have another use too: once a child has learned the words by heart, they can return at a later stage and begin to match the words in their head with those on the page – one way into beginning reading.

My First Words
My First Colours and Shapes
My First Animals

Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Finnish artist, Metsola has clearly used her background in printing and design to create these three stylish, invitingly interactive board book additions to the Learning Garden series. Each has seven brightly coloured spreads with ten named items per spread; My First Words encompasses items of clothing and a set of hangers, modes of transport; play-related things; Snacktime goodies and a spoon; and things related to the outdoors.
The two final spreads are devoted to Dinnertime and Bedtime.
There’s a related question to discuss on every spread (some more open than others) and an abundance of pattern throughout each book.
My First Shapes and Colours begins with the three primary colours, followed by green, purple and orange, with a final spread of shapes …

My First Animals (my favourite I think, because there’s a slight quirkiness about the animals’ shapes) has a plethora of creatures small and large. The garden,

pond, ocean, jungle, farm, polar regions and savannah are the habitats of the chosen animals; here I think a few of the questions were not so carefully considered: ‘… which animal is the tallest?’ we’re asked. The correct answer relies on knowledge rather than observation of what’s presented on the spread –the giraffe shown is not taller than say, the cheetah, for instance.
There’s rich language learning potential within each book, far beyond the mere naming of the labelled images depicted.

Picky Eaters
Ellen Jackson and Amy-Clare Barden
Sterling Children’s Books
As this playful, rhyming board book demonstrates, picky eaters don’t just come in human form. Creatures large and small, from koalas to caterpillars, turtles to turkeys and honeybees to giant whales are also very choosy about their dietary intake. Their favourite fare, and that of the other animals herein, is revealed by lifting the various flaps, two per double spread.

Fun learning for tiny hands.

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Pants, Birthdays and Robo-Snot

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The Prince of Pants
Alan MacDonald and Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic Children’s Books
Prepare to be dazzled by Sarah McIntyre’s illustrations for this crazy pants-centric tale of little Prince Pip and his nearly calamitous birthday. The young lad leaps from bed on the morning of his special day and his first task is to choose which of his many pairs of underpants are best suited for the occasion.

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But when he opens the drawer marked ‘Pants’, disaster has struck; it’s completely empty.
Thus begins a search all over the castle …

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and its grounds, a search that yields nothing to the birthday boy, though listeners will enjoy spotting the whereabouts of the various patterned articles; mine certainly did.
But just when it seems as though this is to be a birthday sans pants, Pip opens a door and receives not one, but two, pantalicious surprises.

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This is one more to add to the collection of underpants picture books for which many youngsters have a seemingly insatiable appetite.

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If a T.Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party
Jill Esbaum and Dasha Tolstikova
Sterling
Now there’s a thought – a T.Rex at your birthday party; but that’s exactly what happens to the small boy narrator of this book when he opens the door and discovers a Tyrannosaurus standing on the threshold holding a birthday present.
Seems there’s only one thing to do, though perhaps the birthday boy should have thought twice before allowing this particular guest an entry.
Those T-Rex toenails are not good for the bouncy castle; he gets more than a tad angry when he isn’t allowed to blow out the birthday candles or open the presents, and games are a total no go area.

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In short the whole party turns into a roaring disaster. What’s more, the interloper refuses to help clear up; he flatly refuses to leave when asked, gives his host a funny look and …

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Hmm.
There’s a surprising final twist to this whole silly scenario to add to the fun, humorously captured in Dasha Tolstikova’s concluding spread.

Another favourite topic with early years listeners is featured in:

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Robo-Snot
Amy Sparkes and Paul Cherrill
Scholastic Children’s Books
Robots and snot: surely not? Perhaps never before, but when Little Robot’s nose starts to feel uncontrollably itchy and a vast amount of gooey green stuff shoots from his nostrils, that’s what he decides to call this strange nasal emanation.
Pretty soon his siblings have designs on the sticky stuff – seemingly it can be put to all manner of uses – but Little Robot isn’t prepared to share; he has his sights set on the big time …

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Everything goes swimmingly for a while but then disaster strikes in the form of an unexpected sneeze; Little Robot is left alone and well and truly up to his knees in the now-infamous, green goo of his own making.

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Time for some snot-blotting but what can he use …
Told in jaunty rhyme and through brighter than bright, action-packed illustrations, this is a laugh aloud tale that I suspect will become a ‘read it again’ story time choice.

 

The Snowflake Mistake / The Bot that Scott Built

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The Snowflake Mistake
Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
The latest scientific research shows that what we’re told as children – that every snowflake is different – isn’t altogether true, although there are a great many structural variations. Now here’s a modern pourquoi tale explaining the popular idea that every one is different.
Princess Ellie lives with her mum, the Snow Queen, in a floating ice palace high above the clouds. In that palace is an amazing machine that collects clouds, squishing, crunching and stamping them to make into identical snowflakes.

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But when Ellie’s mum has some business to attend to elsewhere, the young miss, (who would much prefer to be out playing) is left in charge of the machine. She decides to speed up the snow production …

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and that’s when things, or rather the machine goes terribly wrong, and with a BOING! BANG! POP! it grinds to a halt.
With the only alternative being no snow for the children to enjoy, Ellie knows she must find another way of making snowflakes. Out comes her scissors and with the help of the birds, she makes snowflakes of all shapes and sizes, not perfect exactly, but every one beautiful, every one different. Hooray!
Full of wintry delight this rhyming story is another invention from the creator of the Oojamaflip – another quirky machine. Maddie Frost’s digitally rendered collage-style illustrations, especially those of the snowflake machine, are great fun and the final page provides information on how to make a snowflake.

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The Bot That Scott Built
Kim Norman and Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling
It’s Science Day for Scott and his classmates and it’s Scott’s turn to demonstrate his robot. Things don’t go quite to plan though and that moment of glory rapidly descends into chaos as angry ants rampage, freaky frogs frolic and feast on flies, there’s a big-bellied boa on the loose and a whole lot more besides.

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The cumulative rhyme dashes along at a frenetic havoc-making pace; and with lashings of alliteration and illustrations packed with hilarious details as the whole session turns from calm to mayhem, young listeners have plenty to enjoy as the catastrophes cascade into being until finally, a sense of order is restored. PHEW! Now who could have pressed that button in the first place, one wonders.

Creature Close Up

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Creatures Close Up
Philippe Martin and Gillian Watts
Firefly Books
If you’re at all interested in natural history, or know children who are, then take a look at the stunning photographic images in this book. Philippe Martin, captures his subjects in pin sharp focus by taking multiple close-up shots which are slightly different and combining them into a single image using computer software. The results are truly amazing. Most of the creatures were photographed in the Madagascan rainforest and some in the south of France where Martin lives. You can see every minute detail of the insects,

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amphibians, reptiles, spiders, crustacea and mammals he has chosen as his subjects.
Every page evokes a sense of awe at the wonders of nature and nature as designer.

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Please Be Nice To Sharks
Matt Weiss and Daniel Botelho
Sterling
Over a dozen sharks introduce themselves in this photographic parade of one of the world’s threatened species; threatened partly because of their popularity as the chief ingredient of shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy but they’re also hunted for sport. Their loss as a species would be disastrous for the food chain as a whole as they play a vital role in keeping the animal populations of the oceans in balance. From the largest Whale Shark to the Bamboo Shark, one of the smallest …

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each variety represented concludes its personal resume with the urgent plea: Please be nice to … sharks” and the final spread offers further information about what this means for we humans. One for the primary school topic box I suggest.

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Dinosaurs of the Upper Cretaceous
David West
Firefly Books
If you’re a child fascinated by dinosaurs – and that’s an awful lot of children – you probably can’t have too many books on the subject. This particular one is part of a series of six each of which covers a specific period, that together make up the Mesozoic Age. The twenty five dinosaurs included herein are from 89 to 65 million years back – the period known as the Upper Cretaceous and, after an introduction to the period, are arranged in alphabetical order. Among them are some of the most well known such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops but many of those featured are less familiar, certainly to me. I’d not heard, for instance, of the Deinocheirus whose name means ‘horrible hand’ and whose fossil remains have been discovered in Mongolia.

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Helpfully there is a shadow image of either a human (child or adult) or a cat alongside each of the computer-generated dinosaur images to gauge their relative sizes.
Interesting facts such as what each one ate, the meaning of its name, a description of specific features and where fossil remains have been found are provided. Addicts in the 6-11 age group will probably want to collect the whole set.

Wings! / Bertie Wings It

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Wings
Paul Stewart and Jane Porter
Otter-Barry Books
Paul Stewart, co-creator of the wonderful Edge Chronicles series turns his hand to picture book writing and has teamed up with Jane Porter; the result is a picture book that celebrates friendship, determination and discovering your own talent.
It’s the Great Gathering of Birds and everyone is there having fun, until that is one of their number shouts, “Last one to the top of the tree’s a rotten egg!” With that the whole gathering takes to the air, all except Penguin. The poor fellow is left all alone and it’s not the first time. Time to teach himself to fly, thinks Penguin but try as he might his feet remain well and truly grounded, despite the help of some of his friends.

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Emu, Kiwi and Ostrich can’t see what all the fuss is about; they much prefer to walk but Penguin remains determined. Owl steps in and offers a spot of coaching but all penguin perfects is running, jumping and flapping. Seemingly nothing can get our penguin pal airborne – or can it? Wait a moment … what’s that string for?

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Oops. Is this the end of Penguin’s flight then?.

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Not quite: there IS one place where those wings of his can be put to good use …

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Jane Porter’s richly coloured mixed media collage pictures are full of humour and pathos: her love of birds shines through in every one.

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Bertie Wings It!
Leslie Corin and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Bertie knows it’s time to fly the nest. He’s all prepared and the sun is shining: “Today is the day that I fly!” he announces stepping, wings a-tingle, to the edge of his nest. That’s when things start to go wrong.

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Seemingly every other bird around has opinions as to how it should be done. Bertie listens attentively to their input and some time later, he’s ready for the off; he now looks like this …

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and there he goes … Uh-oh!

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That’s not quite the end though: Bertie picks himself up and suddenly he feels freer. Now he KNOWS for sure exactly what to do and this time, he’s going to stay true to himself and follow his own instincts.
A fun look at what happens when you stop trusting yourself and start listening to everyone else’s opinions instead; and a good starting point for discussion.

Meet Ada Twist Scientist, Mira & Em

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Ada Twist, Scientist
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Readers may well be familiar with previous titles Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck from the creators of this inspiring rhyming read; Ada is the third in the series and like its predecessors, it’s a MUST to add to primary classroom bookshelves.
Ada remains silent, observing, investigating and thinking much until she turns three and then quite suddenly things change. ‘Why?’ she demands to know (of the grandfather clock: “Why does it tick and why does it tock?” “Why don’t we call it a granddaughter clock?

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And once she’s started, there’s no stopping this curious young lass. Her other favourite words are ‘Why?’, ‘What?’ ‘How?’ and ‘When’. (the very ones that should fill the hearts of all early years teachers worth their salt with delight). Yes, this child’s curioslty and imagination have no bounds and thank goodness she has such encouraging parents to support her.

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Then, one spring day – the first in fact – a revolting smell reaches Ada’s nostrils, setting questions flying and her curiosity into over-drive. Could that stench be emanating from Dad’s cabbage stew perhaps? That’s hypothesis number one.

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No – then where? The cat maybe? Wrong again and now Ada’s parents have had enough seemingly and Ada’s banished, silenced. Silent she may be, but her mind’s still very active and pretty soon, so is her thinking pencil until
thank goodness, Ada’s parents have had a rethink and before long, are back in support.
Will she ever find the answer to that ‘stink’ question? I suspect she might, for despite all her failures and blind alleys, Ada is an unstoppable problem-solver and what’s more, she’s ready to enlist the help of others. If not, then she’ll find other equally fascinating questions to pursue.
Delivered through a rhyming text and brilliantly characterised in David Roberts’ stylish illustrations, this story is sure to please young audiences and readers aloud, especially those who want to encourage the spirit of curiosity and champion the cause of girls in science. Ada is a force to be reckoned with – long may she continue. Seek this out and share it wherever you can.
Also take a look at the tale of another young girl who becomes a scientist :

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Mira Forecasts the Future
Kell Andrews and Lissy Malin
Sterling Books
Mira’s mother is a fortune teller but try as she might, all that Mira sees when she gazes into the crystal ball is herself, “Telling the future is a gift,” her mother tells her. “You have it, or you don’t.” Mira most definitely didn’t; but one day she notices something – the wind whirring the blades of her pinwheel and fluttering the streamers of her windsock.

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That’s the start of her meteorological findings and before long she’s putting her scientific talent to good use in predicting the future; she’s a weather forecaster no less.
Creativity and the imagination are at the heart of all scientific discoveries: they all begin with someone asking ‘what if’ or ‘suppose that’ and now here’s a book claiming to inspire creative play:

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The Way to Outer Space
Jay Eunji Lee
Oxford University Press
Herein we meet Em who on this particular day is feeling bored until that is, she receives a mysterious parcel containing a book and a card. She’s on the point of tossing them aside when she notices some rocket-making instructions and pretty soon here she is …

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blasting off and hurtling through the solar system to a strange place – a place she’s told belongs to her; and it’s in serious trouble. A challenge is issued and, accepted …

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and off she goes creating …
Part story (told in comic strip style), part activities, this unusual book is likely to get young minds buzzing and fingers working on creating some of the ideas suggested herein – and one hopes moving on to projects of their own imagining.

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Mr Particular & Super-Powered Ollie

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Mr Particular
Jason Kirschner
Sterling
Superhero he may be, but the particular superhero of Jason Kirschner’s debut picture book hasn’t been given his name without reason. Yes, he’s able to perform all manner of amazing feats such as car lifting (toy cars that is), and outrun trains – the kind you see at the zoo – and keeps strictly to his 7.30pm bedtime every single evening. (Parents, take note). He has however, a somewhat self-limiting issue: the little guy ‘liked things the way he liked them – and only the way he liked them.’ There’s an element of that in all of us but his weakness – so we’re told – is that of specifics: ketchup with all non-dessert foods, positively no humming, shirts must always be untucked, nothing with even a slight whiff of coconut about it, no squishy mud or oatmeal and anything green is a total no-no.
All these quirks do have a tendency to hinder him and his pals in their keeping the universe safe from Bad Guys mission …

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Eventually those long-suffering friends, Atomic Bear, Daring Duck and co. call an emergency meeting, the outcome of which is that Mr Particular is a group member no more; instead Dr Slimyhands -recently defected to the good guys side – takes his place.
Poor Mr Particular is devastated: surely his fate isn’t to be left at home playing with nappy-filling SUPERPOOPER.

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Change is needed … and boy does our hero try, but to no avail – old habits definitely die hard. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy though, he keeps on trying over and over …

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Then suddenly an opportunity presents itself: – those very Super-Duper Group members who have just ousted him – seem rooted to the spot …

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while Atomic Bear dangles by the seat of his pants from a tree branch. He is however, suspended right above an exceedingly muddy, mega- slimy patch and there just happens to be rather a lot of small insects creating something of a buzz right alongside. Can Mr P. finally overcome those pet aversions of his and save the day, whether or not Atomic Bear is faking the whole thing?

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Highly entertaining, this is told in action-packed comic-book format and is a wonderful take on sensory defensiveness and aversions. And with a few pooey touches thrown in to keep young listeners super-attentive, this one is bound to appeal especially to superhero addicts – and that’s an awful lot of youngsters – who will at the same time be absorbing messages about drawing on one’s inner strength, never saying never and only holding on to what, ultimately is of use to us. Let those super-powers shine through. And for those determined to do so and one hopes that’s everyone, then the inside covers have a show of everything for the job in hand …

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Ollie and his Super Powers
Alison Knowles, illustrated by Sophie Wiltshire
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Language has tremendous power in the way it affects those around us; that we all know from recent events in the UK.
In this slim, illustrated book we meet seven year old Ollie who no longer has his brand new trainers: he’s been bullied into giving them over to two much bigger boys. Ollie’s mum is furious and he’s only told her that he’s left them at school. “You did what? … They cost a fortune, Ollie. You know I can’t afford to get you another pair. Oh Ollie, how thoughtless.” is what she says and off they both go in the car to visit the old people’s home where she works.
It’s there that one of the inmates, Mr Wilcox listens to Ollie and the whole sorry tale of how not only his trainers but other things have been taken from the lad, and about the name calling too. Mr Wilcox then suggests Ollie uses his superpowers to sort out the bullies. And thus begins the unleashing of Ollie’s amazing superpowers: Courage, Bravery, Strength and Calm among others; and with Mr Wilcox as his friend and guide, it’s not too long before Ollie

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(and his team of superpowers) is ready to begin Operation Positivity …
What a good example of the importance of using positive language to encourage, and/or reinforce, positive behaviours.
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Whose Story Is This, Anyway?

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Whose Story Is This, Anyway?
Mike Flaherty and Oriol Vidal
Sterling
I’m a sucker for metafictive picture books and this debut story from Mike Flaherty is one of those. Before the narrative even starts, on the title page (above the actual title) we can see evidence of ‘roads not taken’: there are four alternative titles that are deleted although still readable.
Now, let’s meet the star of the show, our young narrator who proudly kicks off with “You want o hear a story? I’ve got a great one. Why is it great? Because it’s all about me.” He has a side -kick, his cat Emperor Falafel. (love that name).

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Now let’s get on with the story … it’s set beside the sea, on the beach, to be more precise; but pretty soon – on the next page to be exact, Salty Pete the pirate has the audacity to interrupt the barely off the ground narrative and then accuse the young protagonist that it’s him doing the interrupting. Cheek of it!
What should appear out of the blue next but a dinosaur …

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followed not long after by …

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Our narrator does his best to continue gallantly, oops did I say gallantly – big mistake because what should come next but a knight in shining armour telling of dragons foul and maidens fair. But then, after mentions of pizza (that’s from the dragon) and toppings for same (that’s from other members of the cast) the lad finally loses the plot – pretty nearly anyhow …

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but manages to bring himself back from the edge – just – and gives all the others their marching orders. Well, you can’t blame the lad; after all he’s been trying his best to get his story told for over twenty pages hitherto.

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Time to get on with the REAL story then: but oh! oh! Our narrator notices a yawn coming from our direction, could that perhaps be indicative of boredom? Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to make this whole thing into a win/win affair … Once upon a time …
This is an absolute gift for readers aloud who like to throw themselves heart and soul into a rendition: it’s beautifully orchestrated by colour changes of the speech bubbles, too. I had a ball sharing it with a group. I have to admit though, that I love and welcome interruptions to a story – of a questioning kind though, maybe not of the kind herein. However, the interrupters have my sympathies almost as much as the narrator; and this story has terrific potential when it comes to showing (not telling) youngsters the importance of seeing other people’s view points and of delayed gratification.
Orion Vidal’s cartoon style, digitally rendered illustrations really do highlight the escalating drama of the text until that final spread of serenity. I’m assuming its slightly anti-climactic nature is entirely deliberate and intended to set enthralled listeners off on their own flights of fancy fuelled by the crazy cast of characters herein.

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